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  • Published: 1 Sep 2017
  • DOI: 10.4324/9781138201521-HET19-1


  • Abstract
  • The socialist critique of capitalism
    • Labour exploitation
    • The degradation of labour
    • Class division and antagonism
    • Instability, uncertainty and waste
  • Constructive socialism
    • Decentralised socialism
      • Communitarianism
      • Producer co-operatives
    • Statist socialism and economic planning
  • Constructive socialism
  • References

The History of Socialist Political Economy, 1800–1914

College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University, UK


Though some histories of socialist political economy will trace its origins back to Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia and even the Old and New Testaments (see, for example, Gray 1946), most surveys have begun the story in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (see, for example, Kirkup 1920 and Cole 1959). And there are good reasons for doing so. For it was in that period that industrialisation produced a fundamental social and demographic transformation of many western societies, effecting the commoditisation of labour and its means of subsistence and precipitating the emergence of an increasingly dominant capitalist class to all of which, socialism, in all its many and disparate forms, can be seen as a reaction.